With the new year oftentimes comes new goals. The old idea of “New Year’s resolutions.” We set goals like, “I want to lose 10 pounds,” or “I want to start my own business!” Sadly, while New Year’s resolutions start off with great intentions, the majority of them fall short of success. Why do we struggle so much with achieving the goals we set out for ourselves? Because we don’t set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
What’s a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Ah, I thought you’d never ask! I am a Kinesiology major in my junior year, and part of my required curriculum includes sport psychology. This past semester, we learned about the psychology principle of S.M.A.R.T. goals, along with the “ABC” process of goal setting. Since learning these techniques, I’ve implemented them into my own life, my training, and my goals outside of fitness. I can honestly say that I use this process now when I go about “goal mapping,” i.e. setting a goal for myself and outlining how I’m going to achieve it.
So you want to set a goal… and reach it? Make it a S.M.A.R.T. one.
S – Specific. Your goal needs to have some specificity to it. It can’t just be a generic goal like “I want to be healthier.” Rather, set a goal with something like a frequency and/or duration, such as “I want to improve my cholesterol levels to be in healthy standing.”
M – Measureable. Again, the goal can’t be generic. If you want to make more money in the new year, set an amount! Something like, “I want to increase my annual income by 30% in the new year.” Give yourself a target to shoot for. This measureable goal helps you keep yourself accountable and evaluate throughout the year if you’re on the path towards reaching your goal or not.
A – Action-Oriented. There needs to be a process involved with your goal, and it requires that you do something – something different than what you’ve been doing the past year, few years, lifetime, etc.
R – Realistic. This is where self-awareness kicks in. You have to know your personal situation and any limitations you may have. I’m all for dreaming big and aiming high, but keep things within reason. If you set a goal that’s too lofty, such as, “I’m going to lose 100lbs in 30 days,” you’re going to feel discouraged when that doesn’t happen. That discouragement surrounding one goal will likely permeate into other goals that you set for yourself In the future. Set yourself up for success and set reasonable goals! A far more reasonable target would be, “I’m going to lose 5lbs in 30 days.” That’s also a much healthier rate of weight loss… Just throwing that out there.
T – Timely. There needs to be a time constraint involved with your goal. Don’t be that person who speaks in, “One day I’ll…”s and “If only…”s. Set a goal and set a time limit. Give yourself an end date. Circle it in your planner – oh yeah, if you don’t have a planner, get one! They’re an excellent tool for keeping yourself on track with your goals. I absolutely love my Passion Planner. That thing has seriously changed my life, and it has pages in it for goal mapping and evaluating your goals. Get yours at www.passionplanner.com! But anywho. Set a date. Write it down. Write it in multiple places. Shoot, write it on a Post-It note or poster and put it somewhere (like your bathroom mirror) where you’ll see the goal and the end date every single day.
S – Self-determined. No one likes to feel forced into anything. I personally would rather do what I want to do as opposed to going after a goal that someone else has set for me. Intrinsic motivation is the strongest source (in my humble opinion), so setting your own goals means that you genuinely want that goal for yourself. You are much more likely to put in the work when it’s something that you want, not something that you feel pressured to do because a spouse/family member/friend/boss wants you to, or just because it’s “what everyone else is doing.”
So, take a look at your goal(s). Do they meet those criteria? Great. Let’s move on to the “ABC” process of your goal.
The “ABC” process is basically the idea of breaking down your goal into smaller goals that act as checkpoints along the way.
Your “A” goal is your big goal, the “end” goal, so to speak. For example, your end goal may be to increase your back squat from 250lbs to 275lbs. That is your “A” goal. Set your end date for this goal.
The “B” and “C” goal are smaller goals that help get you closer to your “A” goal. I recommend setting goals that are slightly different than your end goal but still help you achieve that end goal. For example, I wouldn’t say to set your B and C goals as 1RM squat numbers, at least not your C goal, which we’ll get into in a moment. That’s no fun. Get creative here!
Your “B” goal should fall about halfway between your starting point and your “A” goal ending date. With the example of a squat PR, a good “B” goal may be to squat your current 1RM for a double, indicating that you are in fact getting stronger.
Your “C” goal is something much smaller. Your “C” goal is meant to be a goal that you can accomplish within 1-2 weeks of setting your “A” goal. With the example of the squat PR once again, setting a “C” goal of foam rolling and stretching at least 3x/week would be a great start! That’s something you can do right now, and taking care of your muscles/ensuring adequate recovery is going to help you get stronger over time.
Circle the dates for your “A,” “B,” and “C” goals in your planner and keep yourself accountable! Do you really want that squat PR? Hop on your foam roller. Are you truly committed to increasing your income? Write out your current income, your budget, and find areas in your life where you can increase your income by saving more money. Get committed to every single step of the process, even the seemingly small and mundane ones. At the end of the day (or year, I suppose), it’s the small, daily, mundane tasks that are your “bricks.” Each brick you lay down is helping you build your #goals house.
A few other things to note about goal setting:
Obstacles. It’s worthwhile to also come up with a list of potential obstacles involved with the goal you’re going after. If your goal is to eat healthier in an effort to get to a healthier body fat percentage, one obstacle may be lack of nutritional knowledge to make smart food choices. Write out at least 5 obstacles you may face in pursuit of your goal and address how you tentatively plan to overcome them.
Accountability. This is a big one. I feel that a large part of why people don’t reach their goals is because they don’t have anyone to hold them responsible. Individual willpower only lasts so long. There will be moments when it’s tested, and it’s far easier to slip if you don’t have anyone to report to. Write out a list of at least 5 people in your life that you inform about your goal and who are going to hold you to that goal. This can be friends, family members, coworkers, etc. Shoot, get people in your life involved! Start an office-wide health initiative, and make it fun. A little healthy competition is a great motivator! In all seriousness, we are not islands, and we need the help of other people, especially when going after our dreams. If you have someone to report to, you’re much more likely to stick to your trajectory. Why do you think I have a nutrition coach to help me prep for bodybuilding shows? I really love cookies and wine. I’m a lot less likely to indulge in said cookies and wine (when they don’t fit my plan or my goals – there is a time and place where cookies and wine are A-okay) if I have someone to report to about my slip-up. Hold yourself accountable first and foremost (intrinsic motivation), but involve other people in your process.
A final note – giving yourself grace. Go after your goals with tenacity, intensity, and purpose (shameless plug for my motto). Be disciplined when you lack motivation. If you reach your goal, amazing! Celebrate accordingly and set some new goals after that. But if the day comes where your end goal is “due” and you fall short, don’t beat yourself up about it. You get a 5-second pity party to mope and feel sad and disappointed, but then when that five seconds is up, it’s up. Use that failure. Evaluate it. Identify areas that went well, and areas that could have gone better. You do not get better by wallowing in your defeats – you improve by conscious daily effort, laying bricks, and using the times when you fall short as motivators. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from setbacks with renewed motivation (also picked that up in Sport Psychology). Be resilient. Brick by brick, you will build your house.
Let’s get after 2017 together. Every day is an opportunity. Set new goals all the time. Never stop dreaming, and most importantly, never stop doing.